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NFL investigating allegations Jameis Winston groped Uber driver in 2016, report says

Update 2:27 p.m. EDT Nov. 17: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston on Friday denied that he groped a female Uber driver in 2016, saying in a statement that he believes “the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.”

“The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately.”

BuzzFeed News reported Friday that the NFL is investigating the alleged incident, which happened in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The driver, who was not identified, told BuzzFeed that Winston “reached over and he just grabbed my crotch” as they were waiting for food in the drive-thru of a Mexican restaurant.

“I am supportive of the national movement to raise awareness and develop better responses to the concerns of parties who find themselves in these types of situations, but this accusation is false,” Winston said. “While I am certain that I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don’t want to engage in a battle with the driver and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way.”

In response to the incident, Uber barred Winston from using the service.

Original report:The NFL is investigating an allegation that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver in 2016, BuzzFeed News reported Friday.

>> Read more trending news

Lisa Friel, a member of the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, sent a letter to the female Uber driver on Thursday confirming that the NFL is looking into the matter, according to the report.

The female Uber driver told BuzzFeed News that she picked up Winston in the early hours of the morning on March 13 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She said that Winston “behaved poorly” immediately when he entered her vehicle.

Later in the drive, when they waited for food at a Mexican restaurant drive-thru, Winston “reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” the woman told BuzzFeed.

Soon after the ride, the driver filed a formal complaint with the company, writing that “apparently a big athlete in the NFL” reached over “and put his fingers on my crotch.”

“It wasn’t my stomach or thigh, it was my crotch and I want to be clear about that,” she added in the complaint. “He is NOT safe for other drivers.”

Uber banned Winston from using the service in the future, according to BuzzFeed.

“The behavior the driver reported is disturbing and wrong,” an Uber spokesperson said Friday in a statement. “The rider was permanently removed from the app shortly after we learned of the incident.”

Winston’s representative, Russ Spielman, issued a statement denying the allegations, saying the Uber driver “was unable to identify the specific individual who allegedly touched this driver inappropriately. The only reason his name is being dragged in to this is that his Uber account was used to call the ride.”

While at Florida State, Winston was accused of raping a female student. The alleged assault, which occurred in 2012, was not made public until 2013 amid the controversy of a cover-up by the school and Tallahassee police.

The woman in the case, Erica Kinsman, sued the University. In 2016, she and Florida State reached a settlement that would pay her $950,000.

Winston is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Papa John's CEO apologizes for comments on NFL anthem protest controversy

The Papa John’s pizza CEO Twitter account issued an apology on Tuesday night for comments made about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

>> Read more trending news

The chain’s CEO, John Schnatter, had blamed slow pizza sales on the national anthem protests, saying in a Nov. 1 earnings call that “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders” and that the protests “should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

>> Related: Papa John’s says 'the NFL has hurt us,' cites declining sales

In a tweet, Papa John’s issued a statement Tuesday saying, “The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention.”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during the anthem last year to protest police violence against minorities. The protest got mixed reactions, but other NFL players -- and players in other sports -- have since followed Kaepernick’s lead to protest inequality.

President Donald Trump in September suggested that NFL team owners should fire players who refuse to stand during the anthem, telling a crowd in Alabama that “that’s a total disrespect for our heritage.”

Bar blackout: Tavern boycotts NFL, holds veterans fundraiser instead

A New Jersey bar held a self-imposed NFL blackout over Veterans Day weekend, instead holding a fundraiser for veterans and their families after players continue their silent, kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem this season.

>> Read more trending news 

Rob Johnson, co-owner of Woody’s Roadside Tavern in Farmingdale, New Jersey, had the idea after one of his customers who is a Vietnam vet said that he felt disrespected by pro football players taking a knee to protest police brutality, NJ.com reported.

>>Related: 3 NFL players take a knee on Veterans Day weekend

So Johnson decided to turn off the games for Veterans Day weekend. He also gave 20 percent of food sales to the Green Beret Foundation and Special Forces Chapter 19 to help veterans and their families, NJ.com and The Asbury Park Press reported.

The bar was filled with supporters during Sunday’s event. One hour after it started, waiters had run out of glasses, with 300 to 400 customers, The Press reported.

Over the patriotic weekend, only three NFL players knelt before the games.

Related video:

3 NFL players take a knee on Veterans Day weekend

Although it was noticed during the early NFL games on Sunday that no players had as of then decided to take a knee during the national anthem this Veterans Day weekend, that changed later in the day.

>> On Rare.us: Miko Grimes is slammed for saying Raiders allowed Derek Carr’s injury

Before the 4 p.m. game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, players from both teams demonstrated. One of the Giants, Olivier Vernon, was seen kneeling behind a large American flag.

>> Read more trending news

Eric Reid and Marquise Goodwin with the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick's former team, also joined.

The NFL Players Association had asked all players to observe a two-minute moment of silence before games to honor veterans. Many players and teams did show support of the military.

Even players who have been protesting most of the season stood for the anthem this week, including the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, who stood before Thursday night’s game. Titans receiver Rishard Matthews walked onto the field holding hands with soldiers and stood with teammates for the anthem for the first time since President Donald Trump criticized players for protesting.

Bennett in particular wanted to show that his participation in the protest was not about the military.

Regardless of how the players planned to act this week, many people were open about the fact that they would be boycotting the NFL this weekend, including Sarah Palin.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Report: 3 NFL owners to surrender emails, cell phones in Kaepernick case

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair are among the NFL team owners that will be deposed in Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL, according to a Friday report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

>> Read more trending news

Schefter reported the owners will be asked to turn over all cell phone records and emails in relation to the collusion case.

Others owners, teams and league officials also will be deposed, but Schefter reported they have not been confirmed as of Friday.

On Oct. 15, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL accusing owners of collusion and preventing him from being signed to another team, according to ESPN. 

Kaepernick, a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, is one of the most accomplished free-agent quarterbacks on the market. The former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers led his team to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship in 2013 before opting out of his contract in March.

Kaepernick, who has not been re-signed by any NFL team, began taking a knee in protest of police brutality and social injustice during the playing of the national anthem last season.

Retired Navy officer refuses award from New Orleans Saints due to player protests

A retired U.S. Navy officer said he declined an award from the New Orleans Saints because of NFL players protesting the national anthem by taking a knee, WDSU reported.

>> Read more trending news

Cmdr. John Wells was selected for a Peoples Health Champion Award, which would have been presented at Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Superdome. The award is given to Louisianans who have “significant accomplishments” and have reached "senior citizen status.”

Wells, who is the executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy in Slidell, said he declined the award because of the ongoing controversy with the NFL and some players protesting during the national anthem.

“I am unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails,” Wells wrote to executives of Peoples Health and the Saints.

Wells said the award was “tainted with dishonorable actions” by the NFL and its players. He said accepting the award would be hypocritical, WDSU reported.

“I had hoped and prayed that the NFL would outlaw these disgraceful protests and wanted to give the commissioner and the owners a fair opportunity to do so” Wells told WDSU. “Their failure to act is a slap in the face to all of those who have served in uniform. Men and women have fought and died for the flag that the players are disrespecting.”

In a statement, the Saints said the team respects his decision and that “he has that right, and we thank him for his service to our country and his past efforts on behalf of the military and veterans.”

“We will not allow Mr. Wells’ decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans. We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans,” the statement said.

The Saints added that all of their players have stood for the national anthem for every game since their inception in 1967, with the exception of a few players during a game this season at Carolina.

The practice of players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem has grown since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing it last season to protest racial injustice and police brutality. 

Wells’ group is a national organization based out of Slidell. Military Veterans Advocacy works in the interest of veterans and active-duty military personnel.

During his career, Wells has testified before Congress in support of veterans' benefits and has litigated benefits issues in several federal courts. He was recently award the Distinguished Military Honor Award by Folds of Honor, WDSU reported.

Colin Kaepernick's lawyer says he will be signed in next 10 days

After being a free agent for over seven months, Colin Kaepernick could finally sign with an NFL team.

In an appearance on “The Adam Carolla Show” on Tuesday, Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said he expects the quarterback to be signed within the next 10 days.

>> Read more trending news

"I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him," Geragos said. "I think somebody's going to sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more."

Kaepernick, a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, is one of the most accomplished free-agent quarterbacks on the market after leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship in 2013.

>> Related: Colin Kaepernick not invited to annual owners and NFLPA meeting

Despite his accomplishments in the league, Kaepernick has been unsigned since he opted out of his contract in March. He began taking a knee in protest of police brutality and social injustice during the playing of the national anthem last season.

In response, Kaepernick filed a grievance on Oct. 15 accusing NFL owners of collusion and preventing him from being signed to another team, according to ESPN.

In six season with the 49ers, five as starter, the former Nevada quarterback threw for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns and rushed for 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Texans owner Bob McNair apologizes for ‘inmates running the prison’ comment

NFL owners met on Oct. 18 and one of the topics on the agenda was whether the league should step in with some kind of mandate involving decorum during the national anthem. ESPN The Magazine revealed one bombshell from Houston Texans owner Bob McNair.

“We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” McNair said when discussing player protests during the national anthem.

>> Read more trending news

While the more commonly-used phrase is “inmates are running the asylum,” the reaction has already been sweeping to this statement.

Within the confines of the piece, ESPN notes one unspecified owner as saying, “The majority of owners understand this is important to the players and want to be supportive, even if they don’t exactly know how to be supportive.” 

According to ESPN, NFL executive Troy Vincent said he was offended by McNair’s use of the term “inmates” in referring to players. 

“Vincent said that in all his years of playing in the NFL -- during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word -- he never felt like an ‘inmate,’” ESPN reported

Later, McNair privately spoke to Vincent and apologized, which Vincent reportedly appreciated.

The “inmates running the prison” quote didn’t sit well with at least some Texans players. ESPN reported that about 10 players, including wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, left the Texans practice space. Most returned and other were talked out of protesting by coaching staff, according to an unnamed ESPN source.

"When it happened, there's a thousand emotions going through your mind," left tackle Duane Brown said. "Obviously, one of the emotions is to leave the building immediately. (But) we decided to go to work. The situation’s not over. It’s something that we’ll reconvene and talk about again, but we had practice today.”

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he stands with the players, and the team will come together when it plays the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.

“I’m 100 percent with these players,” O’Brien said. “I love these players, I love this coaching staff. We will show up in Seattle and play. We will play very hard. Seattle is a great football team with a great coaching staff. But we will be there when the ball is kicked off in Seattle.”

By Friday morning, McNair issued a statement apologizing for his comment.

The Texans issued a further statement from McNair on its Twitter account Saturday.

Dolphins' Ndamukong Suh puts hand on Baltimore QB Ryan Mallett's throat

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh explained why he put his hand on the throat of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallett during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s night’s 40-0 loss.

>> Read more trending news

“He came at me,” Suh said. “Tried to attack me. And I’m protecting myself. Regret what? No, I’m never going to regret protecting myself.”

Suh was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter when he pushed down hard on a lineman’s arm down at the end of a play.

Suh was also penalized for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter, though that penalty was declined.

On the same play, defensive lineman William Hayes was penalized for unnecessary roughness after he appeared to poke at a players’ eye.

Suh defended Kiko Alonso, who was penalized for an unnecessary roughness penalty in the second quarter, when he knocked out Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco with a blow to the quarterback’s head as he slid.

“I didn’t see it, but I know Kiko’s not a dirty player,” Suh said.

As for the overall chippiness in the game, Suh said: “I don’t know about all that. I am always going to play hard, no matter what the score is.”

Miami coach Adam Gase added: “We have to keep our composure better than we did tonight.”

 

NFL wide receiver walks to work after bike is stolen

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is now walking to practice because he said someone stole his bike.

>> Read more trending news

Smith-Schuster took to Twitter on Tuesday to post a video letting his followers know that his bike was stolen and he was walking to practice.

The tweet was followed by another showing him riding his bike Monday while wearing his Steelers helmet.

Smith-Schuster, the NFL’s youngest player at 20 years old, is known for riding his bike to work.

Teammate Antonio Brown tweeted his support in helping Smith-Schuster find his bike. Brown is offering two tickets to a Steelers home game for whoever returns the bike.

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